Sunday, April 29, 2012

the shells





The garden is empty,the only sound is the palm fronds slapping together in the afternoon breeze and the small fountain which bubbles water up from a pipe.The pond with the fountain has several very large orange and white goldfish.It is a small garden shaded by large old oaks and there are a few wrought iron tables and chairs and pots with Impatience.A small brick path cuts through to the front door of the old inn that has operated as such since the 1700s.

A small figure appears at the gate and then she cautiously comes in and over to the pond and the fish.She has a school uniform on and long straight blond hair to her shoulders.She might be eleven or twelve and her concentration is marked.I watch from a window as she turns and I see what is not obvious at all at first.She has a cranial deformity with a thin face that is not round but pointed.I am  shocked and saddened. As I watch ,a young woman comes in to the garden,takes her hand and they walk out ,onto the street and up the block.

Several days later,almost as if she has been drawn to me by my thinking so often of the two of them ,the Mother is on the beach walking towards me.She has found three beautiful shells.I stop and admire her shells and we start to talk and her story pours out in a stream of pain.She has just moved here with her daughter,feeling led to leave the cold North behind with all the stares. It was a pull she couldn't ignore.She is very unsure that she made the right move.She has yet to find a job and when Celeste goes to school her loneliness is so oppressive.That's why she got on her bike to go to the beach.She was looking for something to let her know that all would be well.Her mother always told her that if she was sad she needed to get busy and do something.Wash a window,write a letter.So, she rode her bike.

Gloria tells of riding the Greyhound down the East Coast and how the sunshine made her hopeful, that it would brown her daughter's face and warm her thin arms.I nodded as the warmth touched my shoulders.

The Sisters at the school have assured Gloria that Celeste will feel at home in her smaller classroom with the sun streaming in and hot lunches at noon.She is comforted by that.She tells me about the small green and pink house they have rented a half block from the inn and a block from the school.The girl's room has a large window with a bright white shelf that holds a picture of goldfish and now the shells can go there.The girl calls it her" happy window."We smile,her mother and I ,and part.



I

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the cherry blossom offer




I recall once being in a Psychology class at Hofstra University in the mid-60s.The topic was suicides and the Professor asked if we knew what season registered the most individuals taking their own lives.As the class thought about it,I pictured Long Island winter in my mind.That bitter cold never ending season where the sun just left town for six months and the days grew dark after lunch it seemed.Or the dog days of summer when one grew tired of green droopy leaves and the ever glaring hot sun that made everyone snappish and sluggish.Certainly not the colorful, brilliant leaved Fall when the air cooled and running was effortless and a pleasure.And certainly never,never Spring.

Bingo.Spring!

The professor explained why he thought that Spring contributed to such despair.The glorious colored season of warmth and beauty was too much for some compared to the grey,flat plain of emptiness inside of them.The contrast left them hopeless.

Maybe.

Thinking about this today, I wonder.Perhaps it is a lack of trust.Perhaps one thinks:I see all this stunning change and know ,just know, that I can never match it.I cannot change,my life is set,it will never be better.Spring will be gone in six months just like any good in my life.It's a mirage and I don't believe in it.

When I think of Spring ,I see this: It is a small pink cherry flower warmed by the afternoon sun and it rests in the palm of God.He is holding it out and saying:"This is all the love there is and I offer it to you.It is free and forever.Hold it to your cheek,feel the softness and the warmth.Hold it close to your heart and let it change you ."And we turn away because it is too good to be true, like Spring.

they're watching us


picture by Kris

Growing up in the peaceful suburb of Uniondale, on Long Island,it didn't take much to notice the proliferation of bars.There seemed to be one on every corner or at least three or four per town.I recall passing a new strip mall in East Meadow and my Mother saying,"Well, the first filled store has a flashing BAR sign outside."It was a clever sign for the Barrel Inn.The BAR would be lit up ,then the whole sign.I am sure many a drink passed over that bar in these fifty years or so. Cheers!

In Georgia, these watering holes are absent ,replaced with Baptist Churches.Instead of snow, purple scented lilacs and bars,we have honeysuckle and churches.When people here say,"Bless your little heart",they mean it.And that's what I like about the South.
Instead of the flashing BARREL INN sign today I saw this outside a small church that we pass often on the way to ours: "They're watching us:do they see Christ ?"

Think about that.What do people see when they see me?

I recall a story that touched me profoundly.A man was wandering the street of Rio de Janiero in Brazil hanging on to to a last glimmer of hope and losing that battle.His thoughts were black and heading in the direction of a plan to end it all.He paused on a street corner to take a breath and looked in the window to a T.V. On the screen was a picture of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in her simple white and blue garb, with a radiant smile and gnarled hands that were clutching a thin ,dying child.At that moment, the desperate man a world away, knew that God hadn't abandoned this earth.He walked away with a more hopeful heart.Who did he see?

Who do people see when they see me?

The only reason I am here,in my view,is to be an open conduit for His love.Nothing more.

Ps 63
...For your love is better than life,my lips will speak your praise.
...in the shadow of your wings,I rejoice.My soul clings to you;your right hand holds me fast."

Monday, April 23, 2012

starting the day well





Now that the mornings are just cool and not cold,I feel a pull to go out to the porch to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and begin my day.

Twenty years ago, my husband and I came to an unfinished house that we now own and as he walked through the thick woods in the back, I sat on an old piece of cardboard on the slab that is now the screened-in porch.It faces West and as I sat there and took in the trees,something stirred that I had never felt before.I never wanted to leave this spot and I had to live here.Eventually that day, we had to go back to our old house and I felt a lessening of my spirits.A slight tamping down.But a seed had been planted and within months, we moved in to our grey and white refuge.

From the porch, I smell honeysuckle,watch the turkeys graze,the bluebird search,the wind tear into the pines and  thank God that the only thing I ever remembering having such a hold on me,these acres,have become mine.

I see the startlingly tall beech with its smooth bark that I always have to pat as I go by.My friend came the other day and when I mentioned that it was my favorite,she took a picture up the trunk to its beautiful foliage.I haven't looked up in awhile and was shocked at how tall it has gotten as we have lived here together.We live in a forest as the small black/grey hawk swoops down to take a poor dove away.From the porch, not a house is visible although neighbors are near if help is needed.Do all souls need this greeness,this wild nature ?

I think that we do or the Psalmists would not have gone on as they did in this morning's prayers:
.
.."How lovely is your dwelling place,Lord,God of hosts....

The sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for her brood;she lays her young by your altars,Lord of hosts,my king and my God.....As they go through the Bitter Valley they make it a place of springs,the autumn rain covers it with blessings.....

...Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad,let the sea and all within it thunder praise,let the land and all it bears rejoice,all the trees of the wood shout for joy".

Lord, you place a harvest of beauty before us and I hear the honeysuckle clapping and exulting.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

following the lead



This morning in church, I was reminded once again of the importance of following the small whispers of the Spirit.That little nudge to go that way instead of this, even when we cannot see the difference.

It was a mild spring evening when I walked into the classroom where seekers had been meeting for a week or two.These were people discerning if they should be Catholic.The room was full of energy and this was a different kind of class mostly of twenty somethings.Bright-eyed,hopeful, on a spiritual journey.I was a team member and could sit anywhere and I was drawn to the energy,the tables of bright eyes.But in the corner was a lone couple,and older. not talking.I sat with them and opened a door to joy I could not have imagined.

I complimented the woman who had a stunning head of reddish hair.She thanked me and told me of the wig and why she wore it.All with a smile.And so I got to know Linda and her husband Dale and shared their year long journey to the Church, the hopsice and her eventual leaving us on a bright August morning.

In the process of the journey, I got to know her daughter,and two grandchildren.The girl is a teen and every Sunday that she is there,for the last six years, I have been hugged and made to feel special.The boy, who is a also a teen, sang in the choir this morning and his face shone like an angel.They have a little sister now who is five years old and was born after her grandmother passed away.She too has become my special hug buddy and I relish every minute with her.

Before Linda passed and not knowing whether she would be cured or not, she gave a testimonial from the altar of our church;what the journey and the church community meant to her.Then she said this;"I belong to God".
And without a tear, just a smile, she stepped down to her seat.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Dream


In the early morning hours of this spring Sunday,I awoke to a dream that seemed to have been going on forever.When I went back to sleep, it continued.It was a dream that was so full of meaning for me,so unforgettable, that I want to put it down and offer it as a Easter gift to you,my reader.

I was in the Catskill mountains and great flooding was beginning to occur.All the streams that I have loved since childhood were swollen and raging.I knew that I needed to collect my family members and find a way out before the roads and bridges became impassable.For some reason, my family, including  grandchildren ,kept dawdling and collecting odd things to bring ,seemingly oblivious to the danger.
I was frantic and full of fear and then this came to my mind,a string of words over and over."Exult and praise,exult and praise" and I calmed and knew that I was receiving something precious, a leading for my life.Not only were the words said,but to be sure that I got it, they were written out for me in letters.

I know what praise is,that delicious gift of affirmation that we give to others.I recall my youngest son beaming at me and saying" I love when you praise me,Mom."The other word is less familiar so I looked it up and do I love this word.Exult:to rejoice greatly,to be jubilant,to leap forward,especially for joy.From the Latin exultare-to spring out. Don't these words just make your heart swell?Wonderful words as the pink blossoms spring out of my garden and the bluebirds fly out of their box.

The dream was a long one because I am slow to see meanings but by the time I woke up on this enchanting, shining Easter morning, I knew the direction I had been given:I am to exult as I get out of bed each morning and praise the Giver of the new day.I am to deliberately look for things to praise the Creator for and in times of trouble,my focus should not be on running for safety, but on praising the One who holds all of my life in His hands.

I know this but it must be very important that I do it.Why else would I have been taken ,in such a real way,on a journey to the mountains of my youth and had these golden words chiseled deeply into my heart:Exult,Sharon, and praise.

Friday, April 6, 2012

colors


I stood once a few years ago on the bank of the Flint River with my yellow Lab.It was one of his last days and I wanted him to see it again.This river that he and our other dog always raced to if they found a door ajar.I stood next to him as he gazed into the brown water that slowly passed by his eyes.What was he thinking?Did he know that the tumor growing in his gum was inoperable and we soon would have to let him go?

A hawk circling above let out a cry and my dog looked up and followed the circular motions of the
grey/brown raptor.What was he thinking as he stared heavenward.He was so calm and complete sitting there being with all that he explored in his 13 years.

I have read that dogs only see in three colors,shades of yellow,blue and grey.My garden today is awash in purple,pink,white and red and it is a joy to look at.Dogs see much better than we but not these colors.
Today, I am grateful for colors;I can't help but smile when I see the pale purple iris open again bringing its glory to my yard with no effort on my part.It bloomed last year and for years before that ,nothing.I don't take it for granted.

Maybe,on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge,dogs will see the berries red and bright,the pale pink peony that is in my green pot,the orange and red trumpet vine.And that the hawk was brown and grey and still cries above the water.

Good Friday


It started as a sad day should, with a grey cloud cover,breeze and a threat of rain.It seemed more like an October day on Long Island than a Spring day in the South. I had to look out and see the pink dogwood blossoms to become grounded in this day at the end of Lent.

I am sure that miles of words have been strung together that dig deeply into the meaning of this day for humanity.I always try to look away from the things that the gospel records as being too hideous for thought.On this Good Friday, I wonder about this God that CHOSE to become human and what that meant on this day two thousand years ago.This wasn't a marble statue god or one who set the whole thing in motion and then withdrew to watch.This human came to know everything that we encounter in our lives:betrayal,pain,death,misunderstanding of what we mean and uncertainty.The latter leaps out to me in response to today's Liturgy of the Hours.

When I retired in 2000,I drove away from my work place with uncontained joy.No more 78 mile commute,no more strange employees and hostile customers.Free at last.The next day, reality settled.What would I do? Would I just wait for the first debilitating disease? Inwardly, I painted a picture of all the woes that would beset me in old age.It wasn't pretty or hopeful.I had no answer then but I do recall going to church after that questioning and receiving the message to "find joy".I wasn't left with just that admonition,I have been shown the way.

This is the Canticle that warms me and fills me with hope on this day:

"..For though the fig tree blossoms not
nor fruit be on the vines,
though the yield of the olive fail
and the terraces produce no nourishment,

though the flocks disappear from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet will I rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.

God,My Lord,is my strength;
he makes my feet swift as those of hinds
and enables me to go upon the heights."   Habakkuk 3

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

more than a bookstore

The first haven is in St.Augustine,Florida.Down a narrow side street ,with shade and cobblestones,I walk as if on pilgrimage and enter.She sits reading behind the cash register and smiles a hello.I have thanked her for staying open all these years and then I browse.Last year, when I thanked her ,she expressed gratitude because business is down and she and her partner wonder about staying open.But then she told of their beginning.Before the small door opened for the first time at the front of this narrow shop, they held hands,prayed and asked to serve.

In the quiet of the store,I find books that enlarge my vision of this world.A book called Cathedrals of the Spirit about sacred spaces, takes me flying with the wind in my hair to sacred groves,wells,Cathedrals and caves.A book about retreat places high in the mountains or near a shoreline,calms my spirit before I even open to the first page.The previous owners of these books of holy places are people that I would love to invite to sit with me on my porch ,to drink steaming green tea,and talk as a peony opens in my glass vase.

The second shop is called Omega and is ten miles from my house.It is larger and busier and the feeling is different but treasures abound.The other day I bought a book called "The Road Within".It has varied essays on the spiritual journey. I found this from a writer who believes that an Indian spirit speaks to her and said this:"We are leaving now and very few of you are left. You must pray higher.Pray for the thousand of people who sleep.All people used to pray.Now those of you who remember must pray the prayers for everyone.Stand on the mother(earth),touch her,let her prayers come through your feet and go in a thousand directions.Let the mother play you like a flute.Pray the mother's prayers and then all of creation,all of life,will be well loved and prayed for.You must pray hard and big and fill this world with light so that when the skies crack open ,the prayers will fill in the cracks and darkness cannot seep in.These things are very important now.There are not many of you left."Judy Mayfield

These sentences are gifts to me.They encourage what I believe to be my purpose with language that
is gritty and true.The next time I pray it will be with my feet curled around the cool,light green spring grass.